One of the many reasons a cat might end up in the animal shelter: peeing outside the litter box, peeing on the couch or just in front of the litter box. Why do they do this? I’ll explain it to you!
Note: this is about peeing, not spraying. Here you can read more about spraying.
The big question why cats don’t do it in the litter box… It can be anything. Think about tension between cats, something happened and that’s why he doesn’t want to go on the box anymore, stress, separation anxiety, fear or your cat is trying to feel (emotionally) better and safer.
First you need to rule out a medical condition that could cause this behavior. Peeing outside the box, whether this is on the couch, in the laundry basket, near the box or in the corner of the living room – it needs to be checked out by the vet.
Your fluffbal can have urinary infection, crystals in his urine, painful joints because he’s a senior, and so on.
Always rule out a medical condition before you speak of a behavioral problem.
Not the right box
You have boxes with a cover, without a cover, high sides, low sides, square boxes and boxes who “clean” itself. There are so many different boxes, that you may not know where to start.
For old cats, who may be a bit stiff in the joints might prefer a box with low sides because he might experience difficulty or pain climbing over the high sides of the litter box.
But maybe you have a litter box with a cover and it’s just way too small for your big cat. Take the cover off and your cat suddenly has so much more space to turn around on the box. Not to mention that a lot of cat litter is dusty. So when you have a cover over the litter box, he might breathe in all the dust from the litter when he’s trying to hide his pee/poo. And let’s not forget that cats like look around and keep an eye on things around them while doing their business in the litter box.
Not on the right place
Hidden behind the washing machine, in the basement, in the attic, hidden in the bathroom… Why would you hide the litter box? If you scoop out the box regularly and clean it out, the box shouldn’t smell. And would you like to sit down on a toilet that’s next to a loud and rumbling washing machine?
Place the box in an open spot, but not a busy spot. In the living room, the kitchen, or somewhere where your cat can overlook the room. But not a place where a lot of people walk by a lot (the hallway, near the front door). And don’t place boxes near food.
Not enough boxes
The rule goes: The amount of cats, is the number of boxes + 1.
So if you have 1 cat > 2 boxes. 2 cats > 3 boxes. 3 cat > 2 boxes, etc.
This causes less tension between cats during their litter box usage and creates more freedom and space during their visits. Because it is possible that one cat doesn’t want to use one box, because the other cat has used it. And some cats like to pee one box and poop in the other.
Spread the boxes through the house and don’t place them next to each other. Maybe you have one toilet upstairs and one downstairs, why shouldn’t your cat? Especially for older cats it’s a good choice to place a box downstairs and upstairs.
Don’t change litter-brand out of the blue. Big chance it will result in a cat peeing in front of the box. Mix a little bit of the new litter with the old litter, and every time you clean, you add a little bit more of the new litter, until there’s only new litter left.
There’s also the possibility that your cat just doesn’t like the litter, even though you followed the instructions above very slowly. It could be quite the change if they’re used to soft silicon litter and suddenly have to stand on hard wooden grains.
Does your cat always pee in cardboard boxes, on towels in the living room or on your clothes that you didn’t pick up? Then pick up your clothes, don’t place towels on the floor in the bathroom and don’t leave boxes laying around.
You also have to clean the places your cat has peed on thoroughly. Don’t use any bleach, because that smell will only invite cats to pee on it.
First, you make sure the place is dry before you start cleaning. Then you clean it with soda or something else that breaks off the enzymes in the urine. Afterwards you rinse it and dry it and make it extra clean with an alcohol solution. Make sure it’s dry before you let your cat walk around again, so it doesn’t end up on his paws.
So always make sure you ruled out a medical condition and go through these tips. But remember that a cat behaviorist can always help you much further and see things you might not see.